An Assessment of Exploitable Weaknesses in Universities

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George Mason University, 2007 - Computer security - 217 pages
Recent developments and discoveries in research and cutting edge technologies, including defense related technologies, by American and foreign national students in higher education require new means to control sensitive or potentially threatening information. This dissertation examined whether and to what degree universities are vulnerable to misuse, misapplication, and exploitation of information and technology and if the presence of foreign nationals contributes to this vulnerability. This dissertation assessed whether universities are lucrative targets and whether foreign nationals have access to critical information and technology that can be used by people with ill intent. This study was broken into three distinct phases---identifying the exploitable weaknesses, analyzing existing policies, and conducting the vulnerability assessment. The first phase examined specific examples of misuse, misapplication, and exploitation by foreign nationals in nine universities to evaluate the threat and necessity for this investigation. These nine examples highlighted the problems and vulnerabilities that potentially exist in other universities. The Government Accountability Office already objectively assessed eight of the nine universities. George Mason University (GMU) was one of these nine, and is used to conduct a vulnerability assessment for illustrative purposes, and as a springboard for similar assessments of other universities. The second phase proposed and analyzed existing policies to mitigate vulnerabilities. A CARVER matrix of GMU was created in the third phase as an analytical tool to provide the means to broadly evaluate universities in relation to their criticality, attractiveness and threat vulnerability. Finally, this dissertation identified trends and recommendations. Additionally, policies and publications relevant to this area were examined. While researching and writing this dissertation, the author conducted a literature review of documents of the U.S. Government, professional journals and publications, and open sources. This dissertation will be provided to academic communities as a reference and resource to support future assessments.

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